Just one of the questions I have been asked. There were plenty asked during the launch event for ‘Reconquista‘ on Saturday. Some of them are below, with answers.
Rebecca is a really feisty character. Would she really have got away with what she did in the book in the real 13th century?
Rebecca is something of an anachronism, she is a bit ‘out of time’. In the 13th century, women and girls didn’t have the opportunities which they have in 21st century Britain, to travel and have adventures. So I had to make her pretend to be a boy in order to allow her to do so. She wouldn’t have been aboard ship otherwise.
Most girls from the town or city would be mothers and housekeepers for their men-folk, rarely venturing out of their town. If they were born in the countryside they would work the land. But they didn’t have very much power, unless they were aristocrats, wealthy in their own right or widowed and rich. That’s not to say they couldn’t think for themselves.
Did the besieging army have all the weapons which are described in the book?
I am not sure exactly what weapons were used during the siege, though it’s safe to assume that a besieging army would have catapults or throwing machines of various types ( trebuchets and mangonels ). Most soldiers wore leather armour reinforced with metal and chain-mail. Full ‘suits of armour’ weren’t widely used until centuries later, even for the knights.
Foot soldiers often had little armour at all, just what they could scavenge from the battle field. They carried long knives and tall, pike-like weapons. Cavalry was widely used, but not the ‘knight in shining armour’ variety; rather lightly armoured riders on fast, easily maneuverable horses carrying swords or scimitars or bows.
The English long bow which Thomas carries was in use then, but by individuals, not in the way it was used en masse as a battle weapon centuries later, like at Crecy or Agincourt.
Are you still writing for our nephew and god-son?
Not directly, although the book is dedicated to him ( and others ).
Did he like the original story?
He said he did at the time and, when he saw the final book, he remembered the characters from the earlier version, so something must have impressed him.
Is there any other character based upon someone real, who you know or know of?
Yes, my other god-son features in the book as Thomas of Whelmstone. He was actually training to be a surgeon at Guys Hospital at the time and it seemed right to include him in the book too, if my nephew god-son was one of the main characters. He’s a practising surgeon now.
Where do the characters’ names come from? Why is Rebecca called Rebecca?
Some of the surnames, like Calamiel, Barruch and de Lisi are from Jewish records in Jerez of the time. Al Mansuri and Delgado were both quite common names, then as now. Nathan, Attalah and Juan, the first names of the three friends at the very start of the book all mean the same thing – ‘son of light’. Others are typical names, though Rebecca is the name of my god-son’s sister and Ben is the name of my other god-son’s brother ( just so that I don’t leave anyone out )!
How do you know what characters look like, especially the ‘real’ ones?
King Alfonso X is shown in portraits of the time, but portraiture was often formal, with the Kings shown how the artist thought a King ought to look, rather than what they actually looked like. Later statues show him with wavy hair, large eyes and clean shaven ( though he has a beard in the book, because his statue in Jerez has a beard ).
I have’t been able to find a portrait of Muhammed I. Muslim leaders didn’t have their portraits painted in the same way as Christian Kings. Nor can I find a portrait of the Governor of Cadiz, who was a real person. So I’ve described how I think they might have looked.